Certain recent studies showed that extra-muscular myofascial force transmission affects the length–force characteristics of rat extensor digitorium longus (EDL) muscle significantly after distal or proximal lengthening. This suggested that the relative position of a muscle with respect to its surrounding connective tissues is a co-determinant of muscle force in addition to muscle length, and indicated major effects on muscular mechanics. The specific goal of the present study is to investigate such effects by studying: (1) distributions of lengths of sarcomeres within muscle fibres and (2) the relative contributions of muscle fibres and the extra-cellular matrix to muscle total force, using a finite element model. The length of the muscle modelled was kept constant at a high and at a low muscle length whereas the relative position of the muscle was altered exclusively. For both muscle lengths, the forces exerted at distal and proximal tendons were unequal at almost all muscle relative positions. The proximo-distal force difference was enhanced as the muscle was repositioned away from its reference position. This confirmed the role of relative position of a muscle as a co-determinant of muscle force. At higher muscle lengths, distributions of lengths of sarcomeres arranged in series within muscle fibres were substantial. The force transmitted by the muscles’ extra-cellular matrix comprised a sizable part of muscle total force. At lower muscle lengths distribution of sarcomere lengths was relatively limited indicating that the extra-cellular matrix is bearing the extra-muscular force. However, minor sarcomere length changes were shown to accumulate to sizable effects on the summed forces exerted by the muscle fibres. In addition, the extra-muscular load was shown to manipulate the force exerted by the extra-cellular matrix. We conclude that the relative position of a muscle has substantial effects on intra-muscular mechanics and the importance of the role of the extra-cellular matrix in determining the proximo-distal force differences is comparable to that of the intra-cellular domain.
- Muscle fibres
- Muscle force
- Muscle relative position
- Extra-cellular matrix
- Sarcomere length distributions
- Rat extensor digitorium longus (EDL) muscle
- Extra-muscular myofascial force transmission